Honorable mention — High school essay contest: Melinda Zou       

Melinda Zou

Honorable mention

Why I will always question everything​      

By Melinda Zou

Within those immaculate white walls, rows of pews and high ceilings that give great acoustics, pastors paint a vivid picture of paradise in heaven and agony in hell.

It seems almost ironic that the day I began my journey towards free thinking started in the basement. It was there that the stares would linger, it was there that a certain adult would stare at my best friend, and finally it was there that she told me something bad had happened to her at the church.

You can imagine my surprise what happened when the church found out. They prayed.

That was the first time that I felt disgusted by the religion that I was a part of. With time, therapy and counseling, my friend had healed. She stayed, while I moved further away from religion.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that her experience is not indicative of religion being evil, yet it was​ her experience that led me to begin my journey towards agnostic thinking.

I do not understand why God commands love but also fear. Or why only believers are allowed into the pearly gates of paradise, or why forgiveness is more important than a girl’s trauma.

Why do people wield religion as a defense mechanism and as an excuse to hurt people and condemn others to hell? Why do people believe themselves to be “the chosen ones,” superior to all others and live their lives indoctrinated? Why do people live in fear of going to hell, and live their lives for the sole goal of heaven?

I am agnostic because I am curious, and a freethinker. I have so much to learn. The beauty of being agnostic is that I have no other moral compass but my own, liberated of the constraints that a religion forces me to don.

To possess the capacity for growth and curiosity, and to have the freedom not to fear a higher being striking me down because I choose to question a holy teaching, that choice is beautiful. I will do good because I want to, not because religion tells me so.

 Melinda, 19, is from Artesia, Calif., and will be attending UC-Berkeley with plans to major in political science. In high school, she was a member of Junior State of America, a political activism club that dedicates itself to getting youth engaged in politics, and she also headed the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance.